An Arkansas mother was arrested for child endangerment after she drank beer at a restaurant and then breastfed her baby. The charges were dropped, but this begs the question: Is it harmful for your baby if you drink and nurse?
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Tasha Adams didn't think anything at all about breastfeeding her 6-month-old baby after having two beers. The stay-at-home Arkansas mom of three said she felt in no way intoxicated, so when her baby seemed hungry she started nursing her in the restaurant at the table where she had been drinking. It never crossed her mind that what she was doing could be construed as wrong — until the police came to talk to her. After she admitted to drinking two beers in a 90-minute time period and then nursing her child, she was arrested for child endangerment and taken to jail. The charges have since been dropped, but the question remains: Is it safe for your baby if you breastfeed after drinking? The answer is yes. And, well, no.

It's not cut and dry

According to this report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "less than 2 percent of the alcohol consumed by the mother reaches her blood and milk." Alcohol doesn't accumulate in breast milk, rather it leaves your milk at the same rate it leaves your blood. So how quickly it leaves your blood depends on the same factors which determine how drastically alcohol affects you: how much do you weigh, how fast are you drinking, what is the alcohol content of your beverage, are you eating and how quickly do you metabolize? While the varying answers to these questions make it hard to pin down a universal time-chart, KellyMom.com, an online breastfeeding resource, says, "In general, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed."

Alcohol is compatible with nursing

The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs considers alcohol to be "compatible" with breastfeeding, the same distinction it gives to acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Dr. Jack Newman, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and breastfeeding advocate, says in his International Breastfeeding Centre article Myths of Breastfeeding"Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers."

The biggest danger is to your milk supply

Current research shows the real danger of drinking and nursing is to Mom's milk supply and let-down, rather than to Baby. Studies have shown moms to make less milk, babies to drink less milk and let-down to be inhibited after nursing mothers ingest alcohol. Also, if a mom is separated from her baby during feedings or skips feedings due to alcohol consumption, the supply-and-demand nature of breast milk production can be affected. These consequences of alcohol use can interfere with a woman's milk supply, which can cause problems in the nursing relationship down the road.

The Bottom Line^

It all really comes down to using common sense if you are going to drink alcohol and then nurse your babe. If you are feeling a buzz, chances are your babe will too.

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